A Matter of Taste
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Any visitor to
At first sight, it is a non descript kind of street, not very long, off the infamous Laxmi Chowk of Lahore and it consists essentially of street side restaurants, juice, milk and sweet shops all bunched together on this short stretch. During the day it could be any one of Laxmi Chowks busy lanes bustling with traffic, smog and rickshaws that dart around in a most unpredictable and almost psychotic manner. As the sun begins to set, the auto workshops and their ilk start pulling down the shutters and as darkness falls, the rather unkempt, typically untidy street starts to metamorphose. Within minutes, out come the tables, and the street-side pots and pans, and on go the flames. However, it is only when the lights that are designed to illuminate the decorated rooftops of the surrounding ancient houses are switched on, that Food Street well and truly comes alive!
By about 8, the crowd starts swelling and soon there won't be a spare inch in sight. We arrived early, to avoid the throngs and to be able to leisurely gorge on most of the items on offer. There is not much on Food Street that caters to vegetarians. For most locals vegetarianism is something that is inconceivable and most Pakistanis are devout carnivores. As we tucked into platefuls of deliciously juicy tikkas, we were thankful for this fact. It was a good thing that the street was cordoned off to traffic from late evening because considering the amount we ate here; the long walk up and down the street became essential.
Walking further along the brightly decorated and kite-festooned street, there were mounds of channa (chick peas) on display - spiced to perfection and served with fried dough puris - a totally Lahori experience. It was a cause for concern that most of the food was deep fried in gallons of oil and ghee. But for that one night cholesterol levels could be damned!
There were plenty of places along the street offering the usual fare of chicken tikka and seekh kebabs. But the dish of the night was the fabulous Batair or partridge. Beautifully spiced, the meat was sumptuous and probably the most memorable thing we feasted on the entire trip. The fish, freshly fried, had also been highly recommended to us and judging by the crowds flocking to the shop, it must have been a little special. One bite and we were convinced. The food was never ending. There were shops selling another traditional dish- nihari or tender roasted beef or meat in thick gravy. There was also the Frontier specialty- the Chappal kebab which is spiced minced beef fried to perfection in a wok like frying pan.
A common misconception is that food street is all about food. Rather the sweet shops here tend to outdo the food kiosks. Massive mounds of sugary sweet halwa, hot gulab jamuns and the Lahore famous Chaman’s ice cream awaited us at the end of our extravagant meal. But it was that heavenly Phirni in mud bowls which concluded the night. It was not overly sweet and yet when it smoothly slipped down our throats it gave the biggest sugar rush possible.
That night I went to bed thinking that every city in the world should have one such place to be enjoyed by the rich and poor alike. Food should be the ultimate religion and Food Street, its Mecca.